Cognitive development is the process of the mind developing, which enables us to reason, know and understand. We also learn how to problem-solve, form our imagination and develop creative skills. Our concentration becomes stronger and we begin to remember things and retain those memories as our cognitive development strengthens, which occurs as we age. Just as early as one month, a baby’s cognitive development is already beginning. Touch, sound, taste, smell and sight are the key areas in which a baby should be getting stronger. Babies will feel pain immediately upon birth, their skin is generally sensitive to physical contact which some people may remember as the soles of our feet are incredibly ticklish when we are children, babies will usually react to sudden movements as they are easily startled by things. Newborns can react to various types of sound by making noises themselves or moving their arms and legs. They may listen more closely to an adult voice as it could be their parent or caregiver interacting with them, which prompts the newborn to be naturally curious in the sound of their voice, whereupon their bond and cognitive functions are strengthened in tandem. Being only one month old, babies tend to prefer the taste of sweet things like breast milk and generally flavourless things such as water. Some people may not realise that babies being dependant on breast milk is more than just sustenance, but it actually helps them to forge a connection to their parent as they develop a natural reaction to the breast, which is smell association. This also aids their cognitive development because babies and children learn through experience in the early stages, so their understanding and knowing is further developed. Babies love to look at human faces, especially if it’s a happy one as babies and young children like to imitate adults. For example, if you were to smile or be a little playful (e.g. make a silly face), then the baby or child is likely to perform the same action, which could potentially further their imagination and creativity when it comes to social interactions.
Between one and four months of age, the baby can begin to understand that an object can be linked to sound such as their favourite stuffed toy will make a noise when squeezed. They can also begin to know the difference between the smell of a person they are not familiar with, and that of their parents. At this stage, babies tend to imitate sounds that are easily differentiable such as humming (low pitched) or squeal (high pitched). From four to six months, the baby can show an interest in objects by reaching for them, which indicates that they have some understanding of how distance works. They may become more curious about the world around them, preferring to take notice of the more brightly coloured objects. Babies coordination can improve by this point so when it comes to an object, they can perform more complicated interactions (e.g. look at a toy, hold the toy against themselves, reach for things). Babies should at this point have a preference in flavours of food, which is often sweet as they have sensitivity to certain flavours such as bitter or sour.
From six to nine months, babies can form connections to an object and an action. For example, if a highchair were to be brought out, then the baby will realise this is a sign that they are about to be fed. Babies will be intrigued by the way objects move and will begin to realise that they still continue to exist in our world even when the object is moved to another area where their line of sight cannot follow – this is called object permanence. From nine to twelve months, the baby’s memory will be at a more developed stage as they will show ways in how they remember previous interactions and experiences with the world and people around them. They can begin to understand what it means to have a routine, so there is some comprehension of a sequence. Babies may be able to imitate more complicated things such as gestures and moods so for example, if the baby saw their parents waving goodbye to someone, the baby may then mimic the action.